Twelve and a half years ago a bouncy, ridiculously friendly Golden Retriever bounded into my life. She was my first dog, and I know I made my fair share of mistakes over her lifetime, but she never lacked for anything, never missed an adventure and never missed a meal.
When this beautiful girl came to me at ten months old, she had hip dysplasia already. It meant I had to keep her active and keep her slim. I can’t count how many times people thought she might be ill due to her teeny tiny waist, but I can assure you, she was as healthy as healthy could be. We walked every day; she played with her multitude of friends and swam like an Olympian for almost her life. In December 2018, she turned 13, and I was so happy and proud that we had made it this far, but her mobility had been steadily declining over the past year, and her back legs were lacking almost any muscle. Her front end was working overtime whenever she was up on her feet. She also had some neurologic symptoms with small focal seizures and even a few full seizures. These were sporadic but something I had to consider as I wasn’t sure where this was stemming from.
I made the decision not to take her for a CT scan to investigate. Mind you, none of this stopped her from thinking she could run and play with her friends. Having a dog that has a body that is failing but whose mind is still 100% intact is a difficult thing to navigate. It’s a constant struggle of, “Will she fall or have a seizure while I’m out? Is she in pain? Will she be able to stand today?” It’s also hard because this dog could fall at any time, but was still wagging her tail and just happy to be doing anything and everything.
One veterinarian that I worked with had a patient who was coming close to the end of his battle with cancer, and when he was speaking with these long term clients who he knew very well, he said, “Don’t wait until he’s unhappy. We know we’ve done all we can, so don’t wait until he’s truly miserable. Let him go when he knows no pain,” and that really stuck with me. Pets don’t have to be truly at the end of their rope for us to elect euthanasia. When we know the end of the road is coming, it’s nice to be able to send them in a peaceful and happy way.
Working in the industry I do, I am no stranger to euthanasia and seeing some pretty sad sights, especially with pets who become so incredibly ill and decline at a rapid rate. I am grateful this wasn’t the case with my girl as she was still so full of life and most importantly, happiness. Making the decision to let her go is one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but she gave me permission to do it. She looked at me with nothing but love and sweetness as I agonized over what to do almost as if to say, “Mom, you’re making the call from love, and I know that.” Once the decision was made, I didn’t second guess it because it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders and off of hers too. The last week we spent together was one of happiness, treats, visitors and snuggles and the night I said goodbye we were surrounded by so much love as we said our final goodbye.
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Written by: Gill Peters, CCS